Source: USA Today
The Chargers, after winning four straight AFC West titles, didn't make the postseason despite finishing 9-7 in defeating the Broncos in the regular-season finale.
Still, it wasn't nearly enough to wash away the sting of not being in the chase for their first Super Bowl title. Many moves lie ahead, although team president Dean Spanos said general manager A. J. Smith and coach Norv Turner will remain in their positions.
The Chargers are just hoping they are not in this same position next year.
"We finished with a win and got to 9-7 but we're not where we want to be, where the fans want us to be," quarterback Philip Rivers said. "But we got a lot of guys who'll come back and be determined and re-zeroed in to get back at it. It is all part of the process ... we are still climbing the mountain and we will get there."
WHAT WENT RIGHT: The Chargers ended up among the league leaders in offense and defense; critical mistakes on special teams helped derail much of that production. Quarterback Philip Rivers passed for over 4,000 yards for the third consecutive year. No team leaned on one player more than the inconsistent Chargers, and Rivers seldom let them down. Tight end Antonio Gates had 10 touchdown receptions and that was in a season marred by injuries. Left guard Kris Dielman earned another Pro Bowl selection in helping the Chargers to more than 400 points for the seventh straight season. The Chargers thought rookie Ryan Mathews was to lead a resurrected running game - he did have a three-touchdown, 120-yard game in the finale - but it was Mike Tolbert's 11 touchdowns which were impressive. Outside linebacker Shaun Phillips led a no-name defense with 11 sacks. Cornerback Antoine Cason had a few missteps, but he had a solid season in his first year as a starter. Also Antonio Garay finally solidified the nose tackle spot and provided a consistent anchor for the 3-4 alignment. Behind him, inside linebacker Kevin Burnett recorded six sacks, one off his career-high.
WHAT WENT WRONG: Special teams were a season-long hiccup and the Chargers can circle this phase of their game which did more than anything else to keep them from playoffs. The Chargers had four punts blocked - another was labeled a deflection - and allowed four returns for touchdowns. Defensively the unit piled up gaudy numbers - some of that is connected to the shoddy special teams play - but a playmaker never emerged; their 21 takeaways couldn't match the Chargers glaring lack of ball security, especially early in the year. The Chargers stumbled to a 2-5 mark, which included losses to the Seahawks and Rams. Beset by numerous injuries, which lead to a roster which was constantly in flux, helped aid the slide of the special-teams play. Also, Rivers had to complete passes to an NFL-high 17 receivers. Off-the-field distractions included late signings by Pro Bowl left tackle Marcus McNeill and wide receiver Vincent Jackson; one-time Pro Bowl linebacker Shawne Merriman being waived because of injuries.
San Diego's woeful special teams played an integral part in the Chargers not making the playoffs this season, and Steve Crosby paid for it with his job Monday.
Crosby, the team's special teams coach for nine seasons, will not have his contract renewed for 2011, the team announced. It's a move that had been expected after the Chargers struggled with block punts and poor coverage units. San Diego also failed to handle an on-side kick by the Denver Broncos near the end of Sunday's season finale.
The Chargers had four punts blocked - another was labeled a deflection - and allowed four returns for touchdowns.
"We appreciate Steve's hard work and dedication to this team over the past nine seasons," coach Norv Turner said in a statement.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
—TE Antonio Gates will determine in the coming weeks if his foot and toe injuries will allow him to play in the Pro Bowl.
—ILB Stephen Cooper wasn't able to play in the last two games because of a knee injury. It's not known if surgery will be required.
—RB Darren Sproles is among the Chargers to become an unrestricted free agent.
—WR Vincent Jackson could also be leaving, or the Chargers could designate him the franchise players if that option is available in the new CBA.
—RB Ryan Mathews fumbled two more times in the final, when rushing for 120 yards against the Broncos, though neither was lost. But Mathews fumbled five times this season, losing three.